National Aquarium Celebrates Births of Big-Headed Amazon River Turtles


The National Aquarium is happy to announce that four big-headed Amazon River turtles have hatched in the Amazon River Forest exhibit. It is believed that this is the first time big-headed Amazon River turtles have been successfully bred in a North American collection.

“We are always excited to welcome new animals to the Aquarium,” said National Aquarium’s Curator of Rainforest Exhibits Ken Howell. “But even more exciting is that this specific event will provide important insights regarding incubation techniques for this species in the future.”

The big-headed Amazon River turtle, Peltocephalus dumerilianus, is a semi-aquatic, omnivorous species found in areas of Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Venezuela and Ecuador. While this species is rarely seen in living collections, two Amazon big-headed turtles have lived in the Aquarium’s Amazon River Forest exhibit since 2003.

Like many aquatic turtles, the big-headed Amazon River turtle lays its eggs on land. Toward the end of May, Aquarium staff discovered that the female turtle had buried a clutch of eggs in the exhibit’s soil.

National Aquarium Herpetologists transferred the eggs to an incubator where they could be carefully monitored. To ensure the eggs developed properly, conditions in the incubator were adjusted to mimic those of a wild nest.

The eggs were incubated for about 100 days, and by early September, four hatchlings had emerged.

The turtles are thriving on a diet of earthworms, fish and small crickets.